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If you’ve been to LoDo since last month’s debut of the revitalized Union Station, you’ve seen it yourself: Children run squealing through the fountains just off Wynkoop Street; businesspeople shuttle in and out of Protein Bar over lunch, quinoa wraps in hand; friends meet for drinks on the Thirsty Lion‘s expansive patio; and couples duck into the Great Hall for cones at Little Man’s Milkbox Ice Creamery or cocktails at the Terminal Bar. The iconic transportation hub’s next act is in full swing, and it’s infusing the entire area with renewed energy—and, perhaps, an increased interest in the buildings that have sat by watching all these decades, patiently undergoing renovations themselves to stay relevant as times and demands change.
At least, that’s what the folks at Historic Denver—a nonprofit that runs the Molly Brown House Museum and works to promote and preserve Denver’s historic treasures—are betting on. At the end of July, they launched a new walking tour program (partly inspired by the Chicago Architectural Foundation’s wildly popular version) with guided adventures through, you guessed it, Lower Downtown. The 75-minute tours (1 p.m. on Fridays and 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. on Saturdays, April through October) kick off at Union Station, where you’re likely to hear about the tall central clock tower that once graced the central portion and the facade’s materials (including white terracotta). Each tour is different, however, based on the docent who leads it. Historic Denver got 40 applicants for the unpaid positions; the finalists—mostly retired professionals, including professors, engineers, and even a detective—went through extensive training and conduct their own ongoing research.
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On a recent tour, we learned about everything from a city ordinance that once banned kissing on the train platform to the only single-family residence in LoDo to why there’s that weird door on the second floor of the Tattered Cover above the main entrance. Juicy, memorable tidbits like this pepper the architectural spiel—you’ll learn to spot ghost signs, corbeling, and Art Deco features—throughout the mile-long loop and keep things interesting for people of all ages and backgrounds. And that’s the point, says Sophie Bieluczyk, Historic Denver’s tour program director and outreach coordinator: to help everyone from native history buffs to the hordes of new transplants to visiting tourists fall in love with Denver.
Next spring, Bieluczyk plans to expand the program to include a tour of Capitol Hill; eventually, she’d like to offer walks in other beloved neighborhoods such as Curtis Park and the Highlands as well as the rest of downtown (the “Wall Street of the West” and Civic Center Park). We’ll be signing up.
Tours are $15 ($12 for members of Historic Denver); reserve your spot through Historic Denver’s website. The docents do not accept tips; instead, you can make a donation to Historic Denver or write a review on Trip Advisor.
Follow copy chief Jessica Farmwald on Twitter at @JessicaKF.